Explore VA North Florida's research initiatives. You can also volunteer to participate in a research study.
The Malcom Randall VA Medical Center (MRVAMC) Research Service, located in Gainesville, Florida, is responsible for VA research conducted in our region. The MRVAMC is the hub of the North Florida/South Georgia Veterans Health System (NF/SGVHS). Most of our scientists are affiliated with the University of Florida and collaborate on studies that are conducted at many different locations nationwide.
Medical care has been transformed over the past 40 years. In the 1970s, most diagnosis and treatment was based on an incomplete understanding of human anatomy, physiology, and disease. Over time, basic scientific research has flourished and has enabled us to understand the mechanisms (many genetic) underlying human disease. We have also seen an enormous outpouring of clinical research (research involving people), much of which has sought to enable a better understanding of human diseases and injuries, their causes, and their consequences. Finally, we have seen a tremendous proliferation of clinical trials scientifically testing specific treatments. These have enormously advanced clinical care.
Clinical trials are done in phases:
- Phase 1: Small clinical trials enable us to determine the safety and how well patients are able to tolerate proposed advances in treatments.
- Phase 2: Moderate-sized clinical trials are typically randomized, placebo-controlled (to assure that, of two identical groups of research participants, those getting the experimental treatment truly did better), and double-blinded (so neither investigators nor research participants know who is getting the experimental treatment). These trials help to determine whether an experimental treatment shows signs of being safe and effective.
- Phase III: These large, randomized controlled studies involving many centers provide our gold standard test of effectiveness. Because of the large number of participants, these studies provide an even better assessment of safety. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) requires evidence of effectiveness and safety from two well-conducted Phase III trials before it approves a drug.
Why VA Research?
The earliest VA research predates World War II. However, beginning in 1945, the VA established a strong, independently funded research program with the specific goals of advancing care of diseases and injuries particularly affecting Veterans and providing Veterans the opportunity to participate in research studies. These studies also benefit the general public. For example, VA research has led to breakthroughs in treatments for tuberculosis, high blood pressure (hypertension), imaging, heart disease, and many other illnesses as described at the website of the Office of Research and Development:
- A Historical Look and VA Research Advances
- VA Research Infographics – https://www.research.va.gov/pubs/infographs/default.cfm
Who Conducts VA Research at the NF/SG VHS?
Clinical research at the NF/SG VHS is conducted by VA physicians or by clinicians with PhDs who are certified in various fields of medicine; in other disciplines of health care such as physical therapy, occupational therapy, and psychology; and in related biomedical fields such as engineering, in which research focuses on areas such imaging, assistive devices, and prosthetics.
What Research Has Been Conducted at the NF/SG VHS?
For a list of research publications about studies conducted by NF/SGVHS scientists – with abstracts and, in some cases, access to full articles – follow this link to PubMed.
Volunteer for a research study
Participation in VA clinical studies will give you the opportunity to contribute to our knowledge about human diseases. Participation in clinical trials will enable you to contribute to the development of a cutting-edge experimental treatment. Even if you get the placebo instead of the experimental treatment, you will be contributing to the advancement of medicine, you will receive intense medical attention, and you will help to advance the care of other people.
All research, animal and human, is extremely tightly controlled and monitored by regulatory boards: the Institutional Animal Care and Use Committees (IACUC) in the case of animal research and the Institutional Review Board (IRB) in the case of human research. These boards assure that research is conducted in a highly disciplined manner that protects the safety and wellbeing of all participants and the privacy and rights of human participants.
- FAQ – https://www.research.va.gov/for_veterans/volunteering-faq.cfm
- Volunteering for Research (brochure, PDF) – https://www.research.va.gov/for_veterans/Volunteering-in-Research.pdf
If you decide to volunteer for a research study, you can change your mind at any time. Your decision to participate or not will not affect your VA benefits.
How to Enroll in Clinical Trials Across the Nation @ ClinicalTrials.gov
For questions and more information about participating in VA research:
Research investigator information and staff contacts
The following link provides general information such as staff contact info, policies, forms, and useful links, for example, to the VA Office of Research & Development website: VA Research Resources (https://www.nffre-research.org/va-research-resources)
North Florida Foundation for Research and Education, Inc. (NFFRE)
NFFRE is one of a network of non-profit corporations (501[c]) affiliated with VA medical centers and authorized by Congress to enable VA researchers to use extramural (non-VA) funds and/or donations to conduct VA research and education activities. Funds from extramural organizations help to accelerate the VA research and education mission of advancing the care of Veterans and improving their health and quality of life.
Private individuals can donate to NFFRE as can organizations. Examples of organizations that fund VA research and education activities through NFFRE include other federal agencies, such as the National Institutes of Health or the Department of Defense; pharmaceutical corporations that recruit VA medical centers to conduct research; or private foundations such as the Craig H. Neilsen Foundation and the American Heart Association. NFFRE depends on the generosity of individuals to continue its mission of supporting VA research and education activities. Click here to see how you can donate.
Geriatric Research Education and Clinical Center (GRECC)
The Malcom Randall VAMC GRECC is one of 20 centers of excellence integrating research, education and innovation focused on aging to improve the health and health care of older Veterans. The GRECC in Gainesville focuses on health care safety and quality and caregiver health. In addition we have a mobile geriatric education unit, and conduct simulation education on dementia for healthcare providers. Learn more about the Gainesville GRECC here.
Brain Rehabilitation Research Center (BRRC)
Funded by the Rehabilitation Research & Development Service (RR&D), the BRRC focuses on advancing neurorehabilitation to restore functions impaired by neurologic diseases and injuries such as stroke, spinal cord injury, and traumatic brain injury. These impairments can affect a wide range of essential activities, from walking and talking to sleeping well and remembering to pay bills. Learn more about the BRRC here.
VA Research Currents
Read the latest edition of VA Research Currents for Veteran-centered research news.